Sunday 23 October 2016

Karl Henry: 'Aim for healthiness but don't give up the treats'

Aim for healthiness, says our fitness expert, but don't give up the treats

Karl Henry

Published 27/10/2015 | 02:30

Karl Henry: perfect may be just an illusion.
Karl Henry: perfect may be just an illusion.

These days everyone seems to be perfect. Magazines, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are rammed with people who are determined to show off their perfect bodies, perfect lives and show the world just how great everything is.

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Food, workouts, body parts, clothes, cars and pretty much everything is open to being promoted and pictured from the best angle possible to make it seem that their life is ideal. The era of camera phones and social media has developed a culture obsessed with others and with their own social media pages.

From a health perspective, there are more experts than ever before, more posts about training and eating than ever before and more opinions than ever before. I have friends whose happiness can depend on the amount of likes and views something has got, friends whose insecurities are deepened by looking at a photo or video of someone they follow who looks good in the photo; who perceive their lives to be inadequate as they don't have the clothes or other lifestyle accessories of that person they follow online. It's a crazy world - what did we do before social media? What did we do before phones became influential in terms of health and happiness- devices that can directly impact your mood numerous times a day? What did we do before we followed every movement of people, every meal, every workout, every place? I'm 33 now and, to be honest, even I can't remember. God only knows what younger generations think - this is their normal, their regular day.

Don't get me wrong, I am not using this article to condemn social media, phones or anything like that. We use email and Twitter to interact with our clients, to get food diaries and exercise programmes, etc, all the time. It has become an integral part of our success with the clients we work with. It makes work easier and I find it fascinating to follow real experts in many areas on social media. It enables me to keep up to date with trends, papers and research into what I do, helping me to improve my own knowledge so that I can improve my service to clients and to those who read or listen to my work. It's fantastic.

But I find it's easily addictive, easy to be affected by it and something that I need to monitor. So what's the point of this week's column? I suppose it's that I want to say that it's OK not to be perfect. The pursuit of perfection is sometimes what causes so many people to fall off the health bandwagon. I'm not sure anyone actually is perfect anyway. Everyone gets bad food days, bad skin days, bad hair days, bloated stomach days - it's just those bad days don't get uploaded, so you don't see them. Striving for an unattainable perfection will cause you more upset, restrict your ability to change and actually stop you from getting your best results possible. I think that it will also affect your happiness and mental health. In a time where mental health has never been more openly discussed, the support you can get online is fantastic, but the reverse is also true, comments and views can have a serious impact on your mind and outlook on life.

As opposed to trying to achieve an unattainable shape or goal because someone else has it, why not try to be the very best that you can be, not for anyone else, but because it's something you want.

You see, if you are not happy yourself, for what you currently have and the people you have around you, all the lifestyle accessories in the world aren't going to help you make long-term happiness and health changes.

Our clients, for example, are all told to have a treat meal every single week. That meal can consist of whatever the client yearns for during the week. It could be a takeaway, a meal out in a restaurant, or whatever they want, guilt-free. Forget any physical reasons, this is totally a mental and motivational reason. Most other weight-loss methods and gyms, etc, aim to totally eliminate all those treat foods that the client wants. The more you restrict them, the more the client will want them and eventually binge, leading to the downward spiral in motivation. Life is there to be lived, your body is yours, you must make changes that help lead to long-term health. Trying to give up your favourite bad food forever just won't last. Don't worry about the pictures posted by those you follow, they are generally only going to post the good ones.

Why not take a few minutes after you read this column to think about YOUR life, what you're happy with and not so happy with. Set about changing the elements that you aren't happy with, one by one, and don't aim for every aspect to be totally perfect. I think perfect may just be the illusion that is the biggest roadblock of all.

Irish Independent

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